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Bad Bounces: The Risky Side of Trampolines

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Oaklee Sidwell, a 9-year-old Utah girl, died last week when the trampoline she was sitting on blew over in a strong gust of wind and sent her flying more than 150 feet. She was taken to a hospital then airlifted to a Salt Lake City hospital where she died of multiple injuries.

This accident is just one of 98,000 trampoline-related incidents reported each year, according to the latest National Electronic Injury Surveillance System study. In 2009, the last year for which emergency room visit data was available, more than 3,100 people bounced their way to an injury serious enough to require hospitalization. Previous studies listed trampolining second only to football as a sport causing permanent paralysis.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has officially discouraged the recreational use of trampolines since 1977, with their policy statement calling out backyard and home trampolines as inherently dangerous, even when properly set up with the appropriate safety equipment and with adult supervision. The statement acknowledges a dip in trampoline accidents and injuries in recent years but attributes that to a decline in sales rather than improved safety. The group also acknowledge that trampolines can play a role in structured athletic training programs with “appropriate coaching, supervision and safety measures in place.”

About 75 percent of trampoline injuries occur when there is more than one person jumping at a time. Younger, smaller bouncers have the greatest risk of getting hurt and their injuries are no joke — nearly 50 percent of injuries to kids under five are fractures and dislocations.

Overall, fractures are the leading injuries for all age groups, the study found, and falls are responsible for up to 40 percent of injuries. Botched somersaults and flips frequently cause cervical spine injuries that can be permanent and devastating.

Cheryl Church, a spokeswoman from the Panguitch, Utah, sheriff’s department, stressed that the trampoline Sidwell was using was correctly assembled, anchored into the ground and had a safety net.

“It was just a freak accident,” she said. “Just a crazy thing that is so terrible and tragic.”

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